The history of Merchant Navy in Nigeria is dated as far back as the 19th Century. The defunct Nigeria Marine department now known and address as Nigeria Merchant Navy was originally formed in 1914 after the merger of the Northern and Southern Nigeria Marine detachment. This detachment originated from the British Mercantile Marine. The Royal Navy now Nigeria Navy was formed from the defunct Nigeria Marine department in 1958. The first (2) two Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) were from the Merchant Navy outfit in the persons of the following:
Vice Admiral Joseph Edet Akinwale Wey, OFR FSS, First Nigerian Chief of the Naval Staff. A pioneer who, with his colleagues, took a good hard look at the geo-political location of Nigeria came up with plans on which to build a great Navy, which they pursued methodically, diligently and honestly.
Admiral Wey joined the Marine Department around 1940 as a technical apprentice to be trained as a Marine Engineer. At the end of the course in 1945, he served in all sea-going vessels of the Marine Department. In 1956 when the Navy was established he was transferred to the Navy as a Sub-Lieutenant
In March 1964, then a Commodore, he was appointed the first Nigerian to head the Navy. He was a super administrator, statesman and diplomat. He was head of he Navy at the critical time of the Nigerian Civil War. Perhaps he most remembered today by many for his gregariousness and humour. When he died on 12 December 1990, his burial was perhaps the first of its kind in Nigerian military history.
Rear Admiral Nelson Bossman Soroh, MFR FSS idc, Chief of the Naval Staff (January 1973 – July 1975). Admiral Soroh might not have been the first head to head the Nigerian Navy, but he has his harvest of first. He was the first seaman officer to become the Chief of the Naval Staff; the first able to become a cadet in the whole West Africa; the African to be accepted for training at the Royal Navy for Sub-tech course with effect from 21 August 1958; the first Nigerian to command a warship when he was appointed to command HMNS KADUNA, taking over from an RN officer, Lieutenant Commander Walting from December 1960; the first black African to sail a warship from Europe and Nigeria. He was commanding officer of HMNS OGOJA which was sailed to Lagos 27 September 1963. He was the first commanding officer of the flagship of the NN NIGERIAN (later renamed OBUMA). He was the first senior to be appointed Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff and the appointment was made personal to him at a time when the CNS was absorbed almost totally in state matters. He was the first Admiral to publish his autobiography, A Sailor’s Dream adjudged to be a classic on the Nigerian Navy and leadership. He was even the first to start a naval magazine Anchors Aweigh.
The Nigeria Navy was therefore, formed to protect the Merchant Navy attacks at sea, which were regular occurrences. These incidents were instrumental to the British decision to carve out Nigeria Navy from the Nigeria Merchant Navy with the specific task of responding to attacks on Nigeria Shipping activities. Thus in 1956, (11) eleven small boats and harbor crafts were acquired and about (200) two hundred Officers and Men were transferred from the Nigeria Merchant Navy to be trained as the independent Naval Defence Force.
In 1958, the British parliament formally reconstituted the colony small Naval Defence Force as the Royal Navy, when Nigeria became a Republic the term Royal was dropped. The Nigeria Navy has since existed.
That Nigeria Merchant Navy as a body is not competing in any way with the Nigeria Navy as we have our clearly define roles of Merchant Navy activities which is different from that of Nigeria Navy of protecting the Nation’s territorial waters and waterways. On this note, we have the below for the public information:
That Merchant Navy is a professional body recognized worldwide.
That Nigeria Merchant Navy uniform as it is today is the same as in inception in line with other Merchant Navy Officers worldwide. Due to the current security challenges in the nation, we want to monitor and control the use of our uniform; therefore permission is required before wearing it ashore.
That we are against the abuse of the uniform i.e. wearing it arbitrary on the street, escorting vehicles and goods and fomenting trouble in the civil society etc.
We are working tirelessly to check mate the nefarious activities of our men. On this note, any of our officers caught in any illegal act should be reported to the National Secretariat of Nigeria Merchant Navy for disciplinary action.
We solicit the support and cooperation of all Nigeria security Agencies especially the Nigeria Navy to always contact us whenever there are issues concerning our men/officers.
That we have instructed all our men/officers to always put on name – tag with Nigeria Merchant Navy inscription beneath it for easy identification to differentiate us from the Nigeria Navy.
That any other Identity card different in any form from the one issued by Nigeria Merchant Navy, 24, Palace Road, Olodi – Apapa, Lagos is deem fake and should not be recognized and such bearer/holder should be reported to the National Secretariat.
For easy identification, Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers use the following:
Our officers use emblem with black background in diamond form.
Our cap badge carries gold/silver eagle on the crest.
Our uniform buttons carries anchor only.
Our Officers use gadget with blue background.
Our Merchant Navy uniform carries the inscription Merchant Navy on top of the breast pocket.